Rather than reaching for whatever you can dig up in the kitchen after a draining day at work, a new study finds that you should head for the gym instead. That's because exercise may decrease your likelihood of overeating after a challenging day, something we've likely all done a time or two. Mental work creates the feeling of needing to be replenished, which tells our brains that we need food. However, by expending energy in the gym, we are more likely to resist the urge to overeat.
Credit: Getty Images

For a lot of people, a long walk to the fridge after a tiresome day at work is the best way to blow off steam and replenish a fatigued body. However, a new study finds that exercise may actually be your best bet for restoring energy, and it will help you avoid an expanding waistline.

A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggests exercising after tough mental tasks decreases caloric intake when you do eat. In other words, if you come home from a busy day at the office and complete some form of exercise, you will likely consume less food than if you had not worked out at all. According to the study, the group that exercised added 200 fewer calories to their meal total than people who rested after the mental tasks.

Mental exertion, such as a tough day at work or studying for a test, is sure to work up an appetite, and it’s important to fuel your brain with healthy foods throughout the day. But once the task is complete, don't head straight for the pantry or the buffet. Coming home and sitting down to an excessive amount of food is not the best way to treat yourself after an exhausting day. Instead, lace up your shoes and go for a walk. Then prepare your meal and really savor every bite.

The exercise need not be rigorous or lengthy, as any sort of acute physical exertion was shown to offset the urge to overindulge after tough mental stress. In the study, people were asked to exercise for 15 minutes. Those that did ate less pizza after the tests they were asked to perform than people who did not exercise at all. Take your energy to the gym, and when you get to the kitchen, you’ll be in a better mindset to resist the urge to consume excessive calories.